Keynote speakers

Tracy Shildrick

Tracy Shildrick is Professor at Newcastle University and currently Head of Sociology. She has many years of experience researching young people's transitions to adulthood in contexts of poverty and wider deprivation. Her research draws attention to the importance of understanding young people's lives in the round and taking account of lived experiences as well as the wider social policy and political contexts in which young people find themselves.   


Young people, inequality and generational change

This presentation examines the issues of youth marginality and generational change in a broader context of increasing inequality and political instability. In particular, it has been suggested that in many countries this current younger generation will be the first in history to experience a decline in their life chances and opportunities in comparison to their parent generation. This talk will examine this assertion with a particular focus on the UK, a county that has a particularly poor record on income inequality and is currently facing increasing political instability and flux. The presentation will focus on historical changes, policy shifts as well as the lived experiences of inequality for young people. In doing so it will draw attention to the importance of focussing on both intra-generational as well as inter-generational inequalities if we are to properly understand the life conditions and life chances of the current younger generation. The talk will also highlight the challenges of addressing youth disadvantage in a volatile and hostile political context. 

Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean is employed as Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia and has recently been appointed joint Editor-in Chief of Health Sociology Review for the period 2019-2021.

Dr Sarah MacLean seeks to understand young people’s perspectives on alcohol and other drug use, to support the development of policy and interventions. She focuses on how marginality (ie Indigeneity, poverty, gender and sexuality) impacts on, and is in turn produced by, substance use. Her PhD explored the capacity of inhalant (volatile substance) use to offer socially excluded young people opportunities to enact desired selfhoods, after which she completed postdoctoral research investigating place-based differences in experiences of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol’s role in inclusion and marginality

Although alcohol use provides young people with opportunities for transgression and to enjoy the thrills of risk-taking, it also functions to regulate and discipline. Drawing on my own and others’ research, I consider three forms of marginality that are constituted through alcohol’s action in configurations of forces involving drinking. First, I show how young adults from poor outer suburbs of Melbourne in Australia are made to feel unwelcome in inner-city drinking spaces, thus heightening the possibility of their engagement in violence. Second, many studies document how culturally-embedded limits to acceptable drunken comportment are activated to discipline young women’s drinking in highly contradictory ways, making heavy alcohol consumption both necessary and risky. Third, and relatedly, much health promotion activity encourages counting of drinks or intra-sensing drunkenness, meaning that those young people who cannot self-manage alcohol consumption are relatively unconstrained in their drinking and hence are exposed to the consequences of excessive consumption. It is interesting that growing proportions of young people across developed nations drink less than previous cohorts did. Emerging research suggests that some of this may be attributed to a decline in the symbolic power of getting drunk in designating young adulthood. Perhaps young adults are becoming wary of alcohol’s capacity to mark them in unwanted ways.

Anders Petersen

Anders Petersen is Associate Professor of Sociology at Aalborg University, Denmark. His research is focused on mental health and he has published extensively on topics such as diagnostic culture, social pathologies, social critique and social theory. Some of his most recent publications include: The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization (edited with Kieran Keohane) (2015), Præstationssamfundet (The Performance Society) (2016), Late Modern Subjectivity and its Discontents (with Kieran Keohane and Bert van den Bergh) (2017) and Critical Happiness Studies (edited with Svend Brinkmann and Nicholas Hill) (2019). 

”It’s hardly enough to do OK – is it?” Mental suffering in the Performance Society.

French sociologist Alain Ehrenberg has stated, “that we are witnessing a change in the social status of social suffering – not a psychological aggravation of the condition of individuals in a “depressive society”. Hence, the bourgeoning rates of depression, stress and anxiety – particularly in the younger generation - cannot be seen as a consequence of an increased socio-structural pressure on subjects in contemporary society. In this presentation I will present a perspective that allow me to claim the opposite. That the society of performance is in fact more demanding to subjects and thus producing the raw material for these pathologies without delivering the necessary tools for people to tackle the disappointments of not being successfully performative. I will support my claim with reference to new – quantitative and qualitative – research conducted among university students in Denmark.

Geoffrey Hunt

Geoffrey Hunt is a Social Anthropologist and Professor at the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research at Aarhus University and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Scientific Analysis in San Francisco.   He is currently the Principal Investigator on a National Institute on Health funded project in the US and also the PI on a Danish Research Council project. Dr. Hunt has published widely in the field of youth studies and substance use and his book publications include “Youth Drugs and Nightlife” (Routledge, 2010) and “Drugs and Culture” (Ashgate, 2011).

Constructing Images of Youth: The Role of Intoxicants.

The aim of this presentation on youth and intoxicants will accomplish the following tasks: First, provide some insights into different forms of intoxicants (alcohol, drugs [legal and illegal], tobacco, e-cigarettes) and the relationships between the consumption of these intoxicants and youth cultures.  Second, in examining the different perspectives adopted within youth studies,  my aim is to explore the relationships between youth cultures and intoxicants in order to shed light on some of the contemporary issues prominent in youth studies.  Finally, in exploring the ways in which the relationships between youth and intoxicants have been constructed and represented by those in authority, whether they be social reformers, politicians, researchers, criminal justice officials or media commentators, I hope to explore the different ways, in different historical times and for different political motives, young people are categorized, controlled, repressed, restrained, criminalized and stigmatized.